Coal to pass iron ore as top Australian export

Coal is projected to emerge as Australia’s largest export earner, generating $58.1 billion for the 2018-19 financial year.

It has been forecast to overtake iron ore, which has been estimated to register $57.7 billion in 2018-19.

Coal is expected to hit its highest annual level ever in 2017-18, where it is forecast to take home an earning of $60.2 billion, made up of $37.5 billion (or 182 million tonnes) worth of metallurgical coal, and $22.7 billion (or 200.5Mt) worth of thermal coal.

Australia’s high-grade metallurgical coal is amongst the world’s best for modern steel making, while Australia’s high-energy, low-ash coal matches the needs of Asia’s high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) coal-fired power plants.

By 2023, Asia’s import demand for thermal coal alone is projected to shoot up by 400Mt more than current levels.

Following on strong market fundamentals for Australian coal in the past 12 months, the Minerals Council of Australia believes the resurgence of coal exports over the long-term will be underpinned by three factors: the high productivity of Australia’s coal companies; Australia’s proximity to major markets; and strong regional economic and population growth.

“Coal is a cornerstone Australian industry built on the efforts of hard-working Australians which supports regional jobs and communities. It has a strong future which can meet the requirements of a modern economy,” MCA executive director, coal, Greg Evans said.

“Governments across Australia need to ensure that sensible policy settings are in place to secure the economic, jobs and social dividend from the strong demand for coal in our region.”

Historically coal has been Australia’s biggest export earner, particularly to NSW and Queensland. It is mostly sold to developed north Asian markets, and the emerging markets of Southeast Asia and India.

In addition to export revenue, coal continues to make a significant contribution to the Australian economy. It provides 75 per cent of generation in the National Electricity Market, more than 51,000 direct jobs and $6 billion in state royalties annually to pay for police, nurses, teachers and other vital services and infrastructure.